1. What is a disciple?
2. What is discipleship?
3. Where does discipleship begin?
We will look at the remaining two questions today.
What is discipleship?
Looking over the New Testament we see growth in the disciples’ lives. Peter goes from denying the Lord to dying for Him. James goes from skeptic to church leader. They are constantly facing new challenges while walking in the light. They are told in 1 John 1:7 to remain in fellowship and live with Jesus. They are challenged in their perception of God's plan (i.e., God offering salvation to the Gentiles). What does this teach us? Discipleship is a process. What does this process accomplish? The goal of the process of discipleship is to become Christ-like in all that we do. Paul encourages believers to run the race to win the prize. Bill Hull, in his book The Disciple-Making Church describes discipleship as “a process that involves the intentional training of disciples, with accountability, on the basis of loving relationships.” Discipleship is a journey with God and others.
Where does discipleship begin?
Does discipleship begin when we accept Christ or does the process begin sooner? If a church van were picking up teenagers for church (who do not know Christ), would this be discipleship? The teenagers may not consider this discipleship, but what about the van driver? By picking up teenagers for church the van driver is taking part in discipling them (as long as he/she is setting a good example). So, in essence the teens and the driver are engaged in the discipleship process. There is now a high level of responsibility placed on believers from the church who come into contact with nonbelievers because they are a part of the discipleship process (for themselves and others).
All of this is part of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. Viewing small activities such as driving a church van as a part of the discipleship process puts a whole new spin on church activities. Discipleship does not begin when someone joins/attends a Sunday school class. Don't get me wrong this is a part of the discipleship process, but only a part. Anything the church can do to get someone to grow in their faith is discipleship. We should not limit this to Sunday school or small groups. Singing praise songs can help a believer grow, taking communion is a special means of grace, hearing the Word preached spurs growth, joining with the body of Christ to worship helps a Christian grow, going down to pray at a church altar brings growth. All of this shows that the church has the ability to initiate the discipleship process at an early time in the life of others. Does the church recognize and do this or is discipleship seen only as a class? If it is, we might need to reconsider how a person is discipled. We might need to look for the principles behind Scriptures for making disciples.
We'll try that next week.
 Bill Hull, The Disciple-Making Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1990) pg. 32.